Ready for rescue
Murfreesboro firefighters forming special
BY SAM STOCKARD • STOCKARD@DNJ.COM •
June 6, 2010
The Great Flood of 2010 brought new focus to water
rescues and flood damage. But Murfreesboro Fire
Department had already been thinking about the
need to bolster its water rescue expertise before the
The Daily News Journal recently sat down with Capt.
Jeff Day and Capt. Blake Insell at Fire Station 7 to talk
about the department's future in water rescue. Day
will lead the unit and Insell is responsible for
purchasing the gear.
Q: Jeff, I understand Murfreesboro Fire Department
is in the process of forming a water rescue unit.
Can you tell me what's going on with that?
Day: We're in the process of forming the water
rescue unit. We've got equipment ordered. You've
already seen the boat. We've got some basic e
quipment, but the city's been extremely cooperative
in helping us get the equipment we need. Blake has
taken over that task to get the equipment and we're
going to have completely outfitted personnel for the
water rescue unit probably within six weeks. Each
person will have their own gear that they can use
during the water rescue, and once that's been
accomplished, then we hope very shortly after that
we'll be able to organize and be considered a team
for water rescue.
Q: How many people will be on that team.
Day: Hopefully, it's going to be 18. That's what we're
looking at, and that simply takes in just the people
at this station, Station 7. We have other people in
the department who have gone to school to get the
water rescue (certification). But right now we're
going to stay with Station 7 because to outfit these
other people, it costs money to do that.
Q: Do you have a ballpark figure of what
equipment costs are going to be?
Insell: You're looking at around $25,000 to get
everybody their own personal protective equipment,
and that's just for the 18 people assigned at Station
Q: Why Station 7, is that primarily because of the
location near West Fork (Stones River)?
Insell: That and they just pick different stations for
special operations, like Station 9 on Cason Lane is
HazMat. They're talking about putting a high-angle r
escue and ropes and knots team out on South
Church Street. Water rescue is going to be at Station
7. They're just trying to get these specialty ops at
Q: Did former chief David Baxter have this idea
before he left?
Day: He might have had this idea, but the new chief
has really pushed this, the new administration, Chief
(Cumbey) Gaines, Chief (Roger) Toombs have
jumped in behind this.
Q: Right now, you all have some capability. What
will this do for you when you form this team as far
as being able to provide better service.
Day: ... The way this will benefit the citizens is once
we form a team we can organize, we can train, we
can train with other organizations, such as SORT
(special operations rescue team), and they've been a
great help to us. We want to work with the county
and the city. ... I'm not up to date on exactly how
many miles of river we have through here, but not
only will we deal with the river and the streams and
waterways, as we saw with the first of May, any type
of water we will be involved in. ...
Q: When you all had the flood, describe a couple of
calls you had to go on.
Insell: At first, we were getting dispatched to several
different locations. The county was covered up with
calls. The city didn't have anything going on at the
time. The county got way more than they could
handle, so actually we were responding into the
county instead of the city, and we started out
around Almaville Road, Rocky Fork and ended up
going over to Lee Trailer Park in Smyrna, which by
the time we got over there, they pretty much had
everything under control and ended up having
some people trapped out at Stewarts Creek and
Sundown. We went out there and rescued a couple
of guys who was driving down a road that was
covered too deep in water and the vehicle got
stopped. They got out and got in the bed of the
truck, then water came up on higher and they ended
up getting on top of the truck and that's about the
point they were when we got there.
We blew the boat up and went in, anchored down,
and rescued those two and got those two back to
dry land. And then there was a house in the same
vicinity that was surrounded by water, they had no
way of getting out. There were five people, so we
boated in to them and got two of the victims and left
a rescuer with the third victim, got the two out to
dry land for medical attention and then we boated
back in and the rescuer and third victim and got
them to dry land.
Q: When you make a rescue, it's not something that
you do real quick. It takes some time and some
Insell: In one sense, it takes time because you've got
to think about what you're doing. You can't just run
out there in the middle of swift water. You have to f
ind a stiller spot, a lot of times go upstream
because you're going to end up downstream,
anyway. ... Trying to get a game plan together and
then actually having the operation work successfully
and get in there to them. But then on other hand, it's
just go, go, go, go. It's grab 'em and go. If they're
not really having some medical issues, or a lot of
trauma or something like that, it's grab 'em and go.
And when you get them to dry land, you're going
back in for somebody else.
Q: Did you have some situations where people put
themselves in danger?
Insell: The two guys on the top of the pickup, that
was self-inflicted, I would say. They were driving up
the road ... like a lot of people do. They think they
can make it and they were in a little Nissan or
Datsun pickup truck, so they're not big and heavy
anyway, and they pulled off in there. You can go in
water that may not look that swift, but it is. You put
that vehicle in there, and it's going to come to a
dead standstill, and they're very fortunate that the
water didn't carry the vehicle that size. ... When you
get that much water around a small vehicle, it's a
million wonders it was anchored down good
enough not to take 'em right on down.
Q: What's your advice to people who are out
Insell: When you come up on it, don't go, because it
may be an inch of water or it may be 3 feet of water.
And there's no possible way to tell that without
physically getting in it. You think you know the
terrain of the land because it may be a route you
drive every single day. And you may think you're
familiar with the area and it's not really up that
much. But it'll up more than you think it is. And then
if you try to cross a bridge, slab or overpass that
doesn't have a guardrail ... you're guessing where it
is. You take off driving and you get a wheel of in it,
Q: In these situations we had people who had 2 to
3 feet of water around their homes. When you're
rescuing someone in that situation, what's your
Day: Safety of the people doing the rescue and, of
course, the people that we have to rescue. Another
of our concerns, of course, is our utilities. A lot of
people overlook utilities and the fact that a lot of
underground services in the city, 3 or 4 feet of
electrical panels are under water, and people don't
realize sometimes what you have in the house.
Q: What's your best advice for people trapped in
Insell: Go to the highest area they can get. If you
sense the water's rising, get out of the house. A lot
of people think, it's coming up, but it's not going to
get in my house. Once it does, it's too late. There's
no getting out then. And if you're in there at that
point, the best thing you can do is try to go to a
second floor. You see on TV all the time, people
sitting on rooftops, on a chimney. It depends, the
higher the water gets, you're going to go
somewhere. And the water ain't where you want to
be, if it's that swift.
Day: One of the things you can do, if you still have
cell service, call us. ... The county has the ability,
and I think we have it in the city, too, that if we find a
n area that appears to be starting to flood, we have
a mass call-out. ... It's through the 911 dispatch,
and it will call your house and say, this is a
recorded message and you need to do this, this and
this. That's one of the things that happened in
Christiana last year.
But if you get trapped in your house, try to plan, get
out before, but if you see things happening too fast,
Q: How did you all decide to get involved in water
Day: I've been in it about four or five years. I grew
up around the water and was always in it, fishing
and other things and got a chance a chance to go to
water rescue and swift water (training) up at the
Ocoee (River), really enjoyed it and came back here
and kept pushing and prodding until they decided
that's what we really needed to do, and then they
asked me if I would like to be the coordinator for the
water rescue (team). I appreciated them giving me
Q: You have to have expertise in operating the boat
and what other areas?
Insell: Boat work, rope work, rigging high lines ...
how to throw a bag. You'd be surprised how many
people can't take a throw bag and throw it down the
river. There's a special technique to that, when to
throw it, how to throw it. So you do a whole lot with
boats and ropes and you need to learn the river. ...
Day: How the river works, what can help you, what
can't help you. Where the eddies are in the river,
that's your safe place you can get into and rest. One
of the things a lot of people see that happens is we
go into water regularly. We train in the water
regularly, but for us to actually go into the water,
that's our last option. We'll put the boat in to the
water, but for us to actually into the water, we'll do
it, but that's our last option, and they train you to.
That's one of the reasons we were glad to get this
boat, because we will do a lot of boat rescues